Are we just asking for the right to be bigots?

27 Feb

People have said my post Monday was too vague or skirted the real issue. I had hoped to avoid the specifics not because I’m afraid of addressing them but because it’s such a lightning rod that I worried about the principle in question (leadership selection) becoming obscured. I’ll try to be concise in summing up what actually happened:

In September we (IV staff) learned that one of our apprentice Bible study leaders was in a same-sex relationship. IV’s national stance is welcoming (that is, come and hang out – we like you) but not affirming (that is, we still think that this behavior isn’t condoned by scripture – which we believe carries authority). We asked the student to step down, and within weeks were removed from campus for violating the school’s non-discrimination policy. Our hope is that we would be allowed to have a welcoming non-discriminatory environment for members of the club while retaining the ability to select leadership according to our principles of faith.

So wait, this whole thing is just about you guys demanding the right to be bigots? Isn’t this the same language and rhetoric used by segregationists: “We’ve always done this, other people can integrate but we shouldn’t have to if we don’t want to!” We don’t tolerate this type of racism as a society and would gladly pull the plug on the Rollins chapter of the KKK, and we don’t tolerate this type of homophobia either.

Ok, that was a lot – I can see that the central issue is going to become the evangelical stance on sexuality, so first off I’ll say that I reject the labels of homophobic and bigot. I think it is possible to respect someone, genuinely care for their well-being, and still disagree with their practices. Some Christians are bigots, so are some non-Christians; Jesus should not be evaluated by his followers but by his own deeds and actions.

Well Jesus was about loving people! He hung out with the worst of the worst: tax collectors, prostitutes, and the homeless. What happened to ‘love your neighbor’ and ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you?’

I think those things are the foundation of how Christians ought to act in the world, though I fail at them more than I wish I did.

But you exclude gay people from the list?

No, I don’t. I value the basic human rights of all people, and if a student at Rollins had been given a bad grade, denied an RA position, or benched on a sports team because of his or her sexual orientation InterVarsity would have stood in solidarity with those outraged.

Then why do YOU want to deny gays the ability to lead in your club?

I’m not sure it’s helpful to frame the question this way. I’ve been in settings where gay students have been leaders. The issue is not sexuality but the acceptance of Biblical authority. We feel that there is a God who created the universe and everything in it and He has given us revelation about how we are to function in the world through the books of the Bible. We would be reluctant to let any student lead who rejects one of the fundamental beliefs of our faith (the authority of scripture). Some gay students reject the Bible’s teaching on human sexuality and some accept it – just like straight students.

But aren’t there plenty of Christians who are affirming? Why can’t you be like them?

First, I’ll admit that I could be wrong about all of this – but I don’t think I am and so I must move forward in my convictions. The turning cultural tide HAS caused me to investigate my beliefs and I’ve been fair in my search, reading well-argued positions from several angles. In the end, my view remains unchanged. I’m most convinced by the position that God has revealed his particular design for human sexuality and that stepping outside that norm is a sin against him. I am not simply clinging to tradition (though this has been the position of Judaism and Christianity since inception). I have good reasons for believing the Bible is the authoritative word of God, and the most straightforward reading of that text (taken as a whole, or parsed out into chapters and verses) points towards God’s creation of sex for intimacy and procreation between husband and wife exclusively. There are other examples of sex in scripture (polygamy, pre-marital sex, etc.) but these are all presented as negative historical examples.

So gay people are just screwed?

I don’t think so, they have the option – like all folks – to choose celibacy and…

So they’re screwed metaphorically, just not literally. How is that an attractive thing? Why would a gay person ever want to know that God?

One of Jesus’ disciples exclaims that they have given up so much to follow Jesus – and Jesus replies that they will receive all of these things, and in the age to come eternal life! (Mark 10) I believe that God designed us, and his commands are neither arbitrary nor cruel. I do not know how to reconcile the fact of same sex attraction, a God who creates all persons, and a God who does not condone this type of sex. My answer lies in God’s character. I am convinced that he IS good, and that he created us. If these things are true then he knows what is best for us, and knows that if we follow him we will thrive. In the end, I trust that God has sufficient reasons for ordering the world in this way and I will do my best to live accordingly.

The Gospel is life to those who believe. Knowing God is a greater good than any human intimacy and inheriting the Kingdom of God (heaven) will far outweigh any worldly pleasure we can imagine. This is what is attractive – we are called to lay down our lives, to sacrifice our very selves and in that act we find ourselves.

Are you saying gay people can’t know God unless they stop being gay?

No. I’m not even willing to say that I know how God will judge those Christians who also practice a gay lifestyle. I do not know the extent of his mercy and grace, and as I mentioned above I could just be really wrong.

My understanding is that Jesus calls us to repent of our sins and follow Him. He claims to be Lord, King, Ruler. If we are following him, we cannot say “No, Lord.” We must say yes to anything he asks, for that is the definition of lordship. (This would be scary, and maybe even bad, if he was not perfectly good and desiring our best end). My counsel to gay students has been the same as my counsel to students who like to party: Investigate Jesus. Read about his life and let him ask you some questions (Do you want to be well? Who do you say I am?) and if you decide that he is Lord, then start saying yes to whatever he asks you to do – even if this means you stop partying or give up on a relationship. It is not our job (nor even possible) to ‘get right’ then come to Jesus, we come broken and wounded and he heals us.

How do you imagine this welcoming but not affirming stance could ever play out in real life?

Shane Windmeyer’s (LBGT rights activist) Huffington post piece about meeting with and befriending Dan Cathy (president of Chick-fil-a) offers me hope. Dan reached out to Shane and despite initial skepticism they forged something like a respectful friendship. I have gay friends and acquaintances who know where I stand and I think they know that I do love them, care about them and genuinely desire the very best for their lives.

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3 Responses to “Are we just asking for the right to be bigots?”

  1. kstedman February 27, 2013 at 2:31 pm #

    Wow. Remarkably well argued–and a perfect counterpoint to Monday’s post. Both work together in harmony. Strong and persuasive–and, I think, loving to people who are inclined to disagree.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Why I don’t want my daughter going to Rollins College… | What do I say to that? - February 27, 2013

    […] I’m leaving the original rather than editing the new wording into it because situations like this are complicated. Also, due to a high volume of traffic and feedback (here and on facebook) I’ve written a follow up post here. […]

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